Q. What’s better than a twelve-foot tall statue of our Mr Darcy in Hyde Park? A. The news stories and comments generated on the back of it.*
(Photo embedded via The Guardian)
I have had friends linking me this all over Facebook and my email, suggesting trips and asking my thoughts. Just quickly – it’s a nice tribute to the BBC miniseries and to Colin Firth, and I’m glad it’s generating some interest in Pride and Prejudice again, but it’s hardly the most thrilling thing to happen. In saying that, if I was in that half of the world I’d be there in a heartbeat. Also, it took three sculpters two months to undertake this work – that’s one hell of a lot of effort to re-create the scene, and they definitely deserve some major gratitude for it.
In saying that, it is a publicity effort for a new ‘drama’ channel, and there’s a number of other commercial elements to it. But, let’s put that aside for the moment and have a look at some Australian coverage of the event.
I’m going to launch into this with an opinion piece on Daily Life by Dom Knight spurred on by this news. It is titled ‘Why Mr Darcy is overrated’ and it carries on about Mr Darcy’s poor behaviour while missing the entire point of the book. We see much of Mr Darcy to begin with through Elizabeth’s eyes, and therefore we’re asked to see him as arrogant, even when he is not, just as we are asked to see Wickham initially as pleasant, charming and an upright citizen. Elizabeth is blinded to his good side and overly illuminates his faults due to her pride and prejudice – just as he embodies these traits as well. That is the whole point of the book. The fact that Mr Knight manages to miss this, which is classic Jane Austen through and through (if you don’t believe me, check out the exact same literary techniques used to a greater extent in Emma), is appalling. While the article is amusing, and I certainly giggled at this: ‘The Daily Mail (the world’s foremost authority on the trivial)…” it’s a bit of a shame that Fairfax allowed this article to go up when it misses one of the not-so-subtle parts of Pride and Prejudice’s plotlines… the Pride and Prejudice (also, see ‘First Impressions’ and the original concept of the book).
What is even worse is the admittance in his ‘correction’ that he did not re-read Pride and Prejudice for the article, hence why he had to write the correction about one of major events in the book. Perhaps it’s not so surprising he missed the plotline too.
The Brisbane Times takes a more newsy approach (borrowing from The New York Times) and provides us the straightforward details of construction (materials) and the scene it came from. They also chose a title that gets to the point ‘Pride, prejudice, promotion: Mr Darcy swims again’. Unfortunately, it makes fans appear a little brain dead (It says, ‘”I liked the way the shirt was clinging to his chest,” said Veronica Matthews, assistant manager of the Lido Cafe in Hyde Park, speaking of the statue’). I also thought this was a waste of a quote: “There was an actor named Rupert somebody who played Darcy at one point” from one of the sculptors. Does anyone know which Rupert he is talking about? I may be having a brain lapse here, but I can’t think of a Rupert playing Darcy (although Ruperts have featured as lead Austen heroes in other adaptations of her books and as other Pride and Prejudice characters).
The worst was probably Pedestrian.tv which covered this non-event in the most click-baitish way I’ve ever seen. ‘MONSTROUS, ZOMBIE-LIKE STATUE OF COLIN FIRTH AS MR DARCY EMERGES FROM LAKE’ the picture caption screams. Sorry, huge fan of zombies here and I don’t see how they relate to this story at all. “It’s 12 feet tall, made of fiberglass, probably gorges on children’s brains to sustain its aquatic existence and is freaking terrifying” the article blathers. Considering this website currently also hosts a feature called ‘That one time I met the Dalai Lama’ you can hardly be surprised. In fairness to them, there have been “news” reports around the globe that covered the statue in similar ways (such as a giant about to crush people etc).
Who else to check out but Mia Freedman’s blog for some more Aussie coverage of quirk (or ‘fluff’ as the Mamamia website calls it)? Number nine on the ‘fluff’ post, our story makes an appearance. One thing this post gets right is the similarity to Eliot Cowan – I can definitely see it!
The only thing keeping me sane right now is the fact no one started the story with ‘it’s a truth universally acknowledged’
*That is, unless you’re in Hyde Park and either swimming with the statue or taking photos of it. For those of us in the sunburnt country, we’ll make the most of the news, photos and twitter-feeds instead. If anyone wants to send their photos from the actual sculpture itself, feel free to send them to me (jennifersduke[at]gmail[dot]com).